Oilers' Devan Dubnyk says NHLPA looking to pressure league

Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk during a skate at Kinsmen Arenas in Edmonton, Alta., Sept. 11, 2012....

Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk during a skate at Kinsmen Arenas in Edmonton, Alta., Sept. 11, 2012. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:24 AM ET

EDMONTON - Stand down, for now.

A labour-law showdown between the NHL and NHLPA that was scheduled for Tuesday morning in Edmonton is on hold.

But it’s not over.

Edmonton Oilers player rep Devan Dubnyk says the players union is not giving up Alberta’s strategic front without a fight.

“We don’t think a lockout is necessary,” Dubnyk said of taking the Oilers and Flames cases to the Alberta Labour Relations Board.

“The idea is to put some pressure on them and show that we need to get something done.”

The NHLPA is arguing that the league is trying to ram a lockout down the union’s throat without following proper protocol, making it illegal under the province’s labour laws.

They are trying a similar strategy in Quebec, where the NHLPA isn’t recognized as a union under provincial law. Since non-union employees cannot be locked out in Quebec, the PA believes the Montreal Canadiens cannot be locked out, either.

The NHL, meanwhile, doesn’t look like it’s going to blink. They blew off a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with the Alberta Labour Relations Board and are planning to ignore the PA grievances in Alberta and Quebec.

If Sept. 15 arrives without a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL will lock out players out anyway, and if there are any legal consequences because of it, they are prepared to fight them in court later.

So, as of right now, the whole situation sits in limbo — until the NHL actually locks out its players, we don’t know what the reaction will be in Alberta and Quebec, or how long it will take for this thing to drag through the courts.

The players aren’t even sure what total victory in this issue would entail.

“If they’re unable to lock us out then we’d have to continue to operate under the old CBA,” said Dubnyk. “I’m sure everybody would be happy to show up at the rink and go about business as usual.”

With pay, he assumes, when the cheques are supposed to start rolling in with the scheduled start of the regular season October 13.

Now, being paid in full during a lockout seems too good to be true, and it probably is, but that remains the goal. Or, as the Flames, Oilers and Habs tell it, a nice byproduct of the real objective: pressuring the NHL to make a deal and avert a work stoppage.

“Obviously nobody is going to tell you that they wouldn’t love to get paid,” said Dubnyk. “But the main goal behind this is to force something to get done,”

It’s hard to imagine that if there’s no league to play in and no games to play, that a judge would rule that NHL players are entitled to their salaries, but if three rich teams are worried about having to fight this high-stakes battle in court, that’s three teams that might be pressuring the rest of the owners to make a deal.

“Hopefully this throws a kink in their plans,” said Dubnyk. “And maybe pushes them up a bit from whatever deadline they were using before.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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